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Biology – Wraparound Spider

Biology –  Wraparound Spider

| On 12, Jan 2020

Darrell Mann

Time to add more species to the list of animals who have perfected the art of camouflage. Known as the wrap-around spiders, Dolophones is a genus of spider found primarily in Australia and Oceania. The genus contains 17 species known for their abilities to blend seamlessly into their surroundings during the day by wrapping themselves around twigs or flattening against tree bark.

Most wrap-around spiders have an upper abdomen shaped like an inverted disk, composed of smaller disks with slits in them. This allows the spider to perfectly wrap itself around branches during the day, fooling potential predators. When night falls, the spiders become more active, spinning webs in between trees.

Females typically measure about 9 mm in length with males significantly smaller at around 5-6 mm. They might spook you if you come upon one out the woods, but don’t worry—their venom doesn’t appear to be harmful to humans. Who needs venom when you can hide so easily? It’s incredible to see the patterns and colorations of the different Dolophones species and just how well they blend into whatever type of tree they’re hidden against.

The high level contradiction here is one between the need for camouflage being hampered by the fact that the background the spider is on can take on a number of different shapes and curvatures, and that if the spider doesn’t conform accurately it will cast shadows and be much more easy to detect by predators. At this high-level, we would most likely map this as an ‘Ability To Detect’ versus ‘Shape’ and/or ‘Adaptibility’ conflict. In which case:

This gets us to the basic ‘inverted disk composed of smaller disks’ anatomy of the spider – Principles 1 and 17. Which, combined with Principle 15, Dynamics is effectively what the spider then does to form different surface-conforming shapes.

Importantly, however, this high-level contradiction doesn’t get us to the important ‘slits’ feature contained within each of the smaller disks. To get to this solution, it is necessary to dig deeper into the conflict and recognize that in order to avoid detection, the spider needs to become more two-dimensional, and the reason that is difficult is because fundamentally it has to contain all of the organs, muscles and other anatomical features that make the spider viable as a living organism. Here’s what that deeper contradiction looks like when mapped on to the Contradiction Matrix:

Now we see with the presence of Principle 31, ‘Porous Materials/Holes’, a proxy for the slit solution, which crucially allows each of the disks to flex without a build-up of stresses.

Simple when you know how.